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Nikolai Krementsov Big Revolution, Little Revolution: Science and Politics in Bolshevik Russia IN A ROMANTIC WORLDVIEW, SCIENCE IS THE UNENCUMBERED PURSUIT o f knowledge. It is conducted by lone white-robed geniuses inhabiting ivory towers that rise high above the ground, which is crowded by the “uninitiated,” who are em broiled in their petty politics, ideologies, and hardships and whose everyday problems science generously promises to solve. From a realistic viewpoint, however, ivory towers are expensive to built and m aintain, especially w hen they are filled w ith esoteric instru­ m ents, stores of materials, and armies of assistants. Gentlemen-scientists who could afford their own private towers have always constituted a m inority and present a deviation in the history of science—everybody else interested in the pursuit of knowledge had to find patrons will­ ing to foot the ever-growing bills subm itted by the inhabitants of ivory towers. W hy would anybody be interested in paying for the pursuit of knowledge? Already at the daw n of m odern science, one of its chief ideologues, Francis Bacon, provided an answer: “Knowledge is power!” And power is w hat politics is all about. Not surprisingly, those pursuing knowledge always entered into alliances w ith existing powerhouses— be it the church, the royalty, the industry, or the state bureaucracy— finding among their hierarchs willing and eager patrons who wanted a share of pow er deriving from knowledge. And in every place and social research Vol 73 : No 4 : W inter 2 006 1173 in every tim e in recorded history, science has always been intim ately intertw ined w ith politics. This intertw ining of science and politics becomes particularly visible during social cataclysms that upset existing pow er structures and relations: revolutions and wars. The British revolutions of the seventeenth centuiy, the French revolutions ofthe eighteenth and nine­ teenth centuries, the Russian revolutions of the tw entieth century— not to m ention a num ber o f local and two world wars—each brought the m ultitude of interrelations between science and politics into sharp relief. Nowhere were the interactions between these two domains—the pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit of power—m ore dynamic or m ore m om entous than in Russia from the 1910s through the 1930s. The intensity and significance of these interactions stem m ed to a large degree from a historical coincidence: just as Russia was going through its brutal political revolutions, science was undergoing its own revolu­ tion. At the beginning of the tw entieth century, the pursuit of knowl­ edge was being transform ed from a small-scale enterprise of individual researchers and their students, making their own simple instrum ents and often financing their own endeavors, into a huge industry-like process that involved hundreds of workers, complex machinery, and m ore and m ore resources. Scientists all over the w orld desperately sought patrons and partners to provide the support and funding neces­ sary for this em erging enterprise. In Russia, they found such a part­ ner—the Bolshevik state. No patrons were more willing or more enthusiastic in their support of science than the Bolsheviks. In just two decades after the revolution, the combined efforts of scientists and the Bolshevik government trans­ formed Russia from a modest province of world science into one of its great centers. Each partner had its own vision of this joint venture, each had something to gain from it, and each had a price to pay. This article explores the mechanics and dynamics of the alliance between Russian scientists and the Bolshevik state, identifies the talk­ ing partners and the languages they spoke, and analyzes the institu­ 1174 social research tional structures and professional cultures, which emerged as a result of this developing symbiosis. Focusing on the first decade of the Bolshevik regime, it examines the multilayered interactions between science and politics in the afterm ath of the Bolshevik Revolution th at paved the way for the “little revolution”—the transition from “little science” to “big science” in Soviet Russia. SCIENCE IN THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE, 1890-1917 For centuries the governm ent has regarded knowledge as a necessary evil. —Academician...


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